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Violin Music: Joe Deninzon, Chris Murphy

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JOE DENINZON & STRATOSPHEERIUS: Live Wires (CD on D-Zone Entertainment)

This release from 2004 features 71 minutes of violin-based rock recorded live on April 11 and June 27, 2003, at Forward Hall in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Violin virtuoso Deninzon is joined on this release by Stratospheerius: Jake Ezra on guitar, Ron Baron on bass, and Luciana Padmore on drums, with Alex Skolnick on guest guitar on two tracks.

Hot licks abound on this release. The violin sears with rapid-fire riffs that smoke with funky pep. Blurred fingers move remarkably fast producing these engaging chords. The notes spin and spiral with blinding dazzle, hypnotizing the mind while motivating the rest of the body to carefree outbursts of thrash dancing. Whether establishing fevered squeals that border on screaming synthesizer or doling out funky melodies of unadulterated fusion, the performance is pure and vibrant, undiluted by any crass top 40 requirements. This stuff even ventures farther out than most experimental jazz.

The gutsy guitar provides a tasty counterpoint for the violin’s velocity. The equally swift basslines contribute a sultry jazz flair to the tunes. The durable drumming propels the music with ecstatic fervor. Some songs feature strong bluesy lyrics.

There are passages that evoke the fiery passion of old Mahavishnu Orchestra filtered through a cooking pot of Hot Tuna.

Besides Deninzon’s own rollicking compositions, this set includes covers of Frank Zappa’s “Magic Fingers”, Stevie Wonder’s “Contusion”, and Danny Elfman’s “Theme from the Simpsons.”

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CHRIS MURPHY: Salton Songs (CD on Kufala Recordings)

This release from 2004 features 61 minutes of vibrant tuneage.

Joining electric violinist Murphy on this recording are: Alex, Stewart, Joey Peters, Smadar Galore, Dave Hill and Al Bennet on drums/programming, and Ted Kamp, Hal Cragin, Mark Gorman and Eric Colvin on bass.

The passionate violin pursues serious expressions, somber and dark with a touch of World influences spring-boarding from decidedly Western foundations. Shrill passages waver in the air like patient birds of prey, pouncing on the melodies with determination and caution. The achieved result is pensive, crafted with a meticulous balance of introspection and verve.

The drums alternate between traditional beats and harsh synthetic tempos, mixing these diverse rhythms to produce a fusion of past and future. Snappy rhythms swarm with abundant vigor, generating propulsion for the soaring violin strains. While the driving percussion invigorates the songs, the pace is steady and even the bouncier pieces maintain a reserved quality, refusing to give in to any frenzy.

Burrowing through the mix, the basslines remain sultry and almost subliminal, concealing their contributions but not their undercurrent of liquid momentum.

This music is superbly executed, appealing to fans of jazzy rock shorn of any trendy fashions. Intellectually engaging, the compositions strip away any nationalism from Eastern or popular fiddle influences, imbuing the tunes with a direct charm that churns with fiery abandon.

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